Sunday, July 4, 2010

Business as usual.

Been away. Moved across the country. Most of my books are in storage, though I did pay a visit to Wild Iris Books, my local lesbian feminist Ye Olde Crystal Shoppe slash bookstore. I got a second copy of Lillian Faderman's famous Odd Girls and Twilight Lovers: A History of Lesbian Life in Twentieth-Century America; That Furious Lesbian: The Story of Mercedes de Acosta by a Robert A. Schanke (what a wonderful name! when he writes nasty reviews, one can say they got Schanked! hee!); Re-orienting Western Feminisms: Women's Diversity in a Postcolonial World by Chilla Bulbeck; and finally Evolution's Rainbow: Diversity, Gender, and Sexuality in Nature and People by Joan Roughgarden.

This last promises to tell me "why Darwin was wrong about sexual selection." I'm no geneticist, but do try to know a thing or two, so this should be interesting.

On a front that looks more like history, I'm currently doing research for my new SCA persona. I don't know her name yet, but she's a Bogomil woman living during the Second Bulgarian Empire in its capital city of Tarnovo. I picked the Bogomils because they're the same heresy family as the earlier Manicheans and the Cathars farther west. Bulgaria was infamous as a total rockin' hotbed of sodomy (say the word Bulgar quickly a few times and see what you get) and the Byzantines conquered and occupied it from 1018-1185 partially on the grounds of stomping it out. Persecution was officially fairly constant until they were conquered by the Ottomans, though it looks like the Bulgarians were also at war against other would-be conquerors the entire damn time so I don't know how much they could focus on internal troubles.

The other thing with this heresy, though, is that they thought women were entitled to equal rights legally and religiously. Way awesome, but of course everyone who heard about this contemporaneously had HUGE FITS. Women's Rights? In MY Middle Ages? It's more common than you think! There's no way I can't be all over this.

The book I'm currently reading to get a good handle on all the pieces is The Civilization of the Middle Ages by Norman E. Cantor. Textbook style, no post-chapter questions or anything but a good solid overview type thing. More specific books I have lined up are The Cathars by Sean Martin which looks like it has good coverage on the evolution and spread of the beliefs, Sex, Dissidence and Damnation: Minority Groups in the Middle Ages which I have not yet personally touched a copy of but Cantor recommends it, and some other ones on interlibrary loan that I can't remember which may or may not be useful. I'm hoping some cultural and social data shows up rather than just the theology, which is most of what I've got so far.

Cantor also recommends Boswell! I knew I liked him.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Dirty jokes: The Pearl

Yeah, scraping the barrel. Been doing a lot of non-gay history reading lately.

The Pearl, a dirty Victorian magazine, ran between July 1879 and December 1880, when it was forced to shut down for obscenity. I found a 1968 edition that collected the issues, including all the poetry and jokes, and on my initial flip through I found a reference to Ernest Boulton and Frederick Park, two young men who enjoyed traipsing around London in drag in the 1860s and 70s, and who were arrested and tried for 'attempt to commit sodomy' in 1870. There's quite a bit of info about them on the web, including news pieces (go a little ways down the page, or ctrl-f), their letters, and even the complete trial record. Here is a blog post with a good summary, complete with pictures. Anyways, that's background. This limerick is another sign of mass media, popular culture, and the love of a dirty joke, all alive and well in Victorian England:

There was an old person of Sark,
Who buggered a pig in the dark;
The swine, in surprise,
Murmured "God blast your eyes,
Do you take me for Boulton or Park?"

It's also interesting that the author/submitter would expect people to remember a non-celebrity scandal that occured almost ten years before, and the names involved. I haven't studied the progression of our modern short attention spans and quick-aging references.

The other joke I found while searching through the book for that. (I eventually resorted to Google Books, our new evil overlord.) It's not related, except in its reference to sodomy.

"An old and favoured servant of two maiden ladies had been frequently reprimanded by him for his free behavior with the female servants. Caught one day in flagrante delicto, he was summoned to their presence, and while the girl was sacked, he was told that if he did not do better and turn over a new leaf, much as they valued him- his next escapade would be the last. He promised amendment and matters went on very well for a time. One evening, he was not to be found when wanted, and on a search being made, was discovered in the beer-cellar, buggering the page boy.
"How now," he was asked, "is this your amendment? You promised to turn over a new leaf." "So I have,", said he, "only I have begun at the bottom of the page!"
History does not give the conclusion of the matter."

Amazon, if you're interested; it's cute and full of the old staples of erotic stories like fake lesbians and men named Mr. Loveshaft. One reviewer says there are stories with male homosexuality, but I haven't read it through.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

History in the making: Perry vs. Schwarzenegger

Perry vs. Schwarzenegger is going on right now in California. The case is two same-sex couples who were denied marriage licenses last year against Proposition 8 and its defenders (wikipedia). Schwarzenegger's name is on it technically- he and his legal counsel refused to support Prop. 8, and the defendant in the case is, which makes this case gloriously direct. The Good Guys vs. The Bad Guys.

Here is the Prop 8 Trial Tracker, hosted by some dedicated people at Courage Campaign to bring day-by-day coverage of the trial. I've been following along with wide eyes and bated breath- for this is, indeed, history in the making, and may result in gay marriage bans being ruled unconstitutional in the United States. There are a lot of prayers, emotions, and tears all over the country right now. Their site has all the in depth legal info about what makes this case historically interesting (besides the obvious) such as comparisons to the tactics of Brown vs. Board of Education. The issues at stake are not just marriage, but gay rights in general and federal recognition of the oppression of gays as a class of people. Three states have ruled gay folk a "suspect class"- people discriminated against as a group, including California.

Go there and read it, and possibly take a break to cry of joy. Read the comments to each post too, if you have the time; there are a lot of stories and memories there that people have shared.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Review: Here and Always Have Been

I don’t usually deal with modern fiction on this blog, but the very nice Kenneth “Craigside” offered to send me his book to review (free book! For free!). How can I resist? Here and Always Have Been is a collection of erotic and semi-erotic short stories ranging in time from prehistoric cavemen to the 1950’s.

I have to say first that I liked a lot of the little things and the plots. He displays a lot of original thought. There are a lot of funny bits that made me smile or laugh out loud. Clearly he did some research and at least knows his way around a list of dead white queers. I was disappointed that there was not really a lot of historical detail for him to have gotten wrong, though- it wasn’t the emphasis, merely the setting.

The porny bits are not really to my taste, which is partly biological on my part and partly the style and tone, which somehow manages to be coy and clinical simultaneously. The settings, actions, and characters are not very realistic, not because he didn’t do his research but because they’re driven by sexual fantasy rather than true character development. I like emotion powering my sex rather than kink, which takes a pride of place in many stories. I think my favorite story was “The Ballad of Sadie”, which has no sex but only innuendo, and in the others I liked such as “The Last Roman God”, “Saladin’s Loom”, and “Will’s Best Bed” it was the ideas I enjoyed more than the execution. (Saladin's men kidnap Richard Lionheart with a sexy plan to get him out of the Holy Land? Tell me more!) A lot of these stories were disappointing because they have such potential and I didn’t see it filled the way I’d like.

Overall impression: it’s clear to me he’s new to the genre. He sent me the book for my history perspective, and I had no problems there, but the writing is unpracticed. I enjoyed it at first, but it wore thin after reiterations of the same thing over and over with different names and kinks. Very possibly a lot of my critique comes of my not being the target market- I don’t generally enjoy the style of mainstream erotica.

All that said, I’d like to read his next work, if he chooses to continue on this path. I love witnessing people improve, and Kenneth Craigside shows some promise.

Go buy it. Maybe you'll like it.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

LJ options

So I totally could have made an RSS feed and been versatile, but Livejournal is what I know, so I made an LJ to crosspost everything at:

Fun! Icons! A better user interface (imho)! Go. Put me on your friends. And even if I go months without posting, there one will come one day, like a surprise present. It'll be great.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

"New" schools of thought on Puritan sexuality?

I have a really good book here by Richard Godbeer, Sexual Revolution in Early America. His first chapters detail the research into Puritan sexuality (and, following logically, homosexuality), which I found pretty surprising, though I hadn't really looked into the subject that much. He cites Nathaniel Hawthorne as creating or at least spreading the image of the dry, strict, hardhearted Puritan.

From page 77:
"Ministers encouraged their flock to feel Christ's love as a romantic, voluptuous experience. 'Here he comes,' rhapsodized [Samuel] Willard, 'to give us the caresses of his love, and lay us in his bosom and embraces. And now, oh my soul! Hast thou ever experienced the love of a savior?' The redeemed would 'ly in Christ's bosom, and be ravished with his dearest love, and most intimate embraces.'"

Earlier in the chapter he quotes some Edward Taylor.
Page 53:
"In poetry written between the 1680s and 1720s, Taylor envisaged Christ as "a spotless male in prime" and addressed his savior in language of utter infatuation:
Thou art the lovli'st object ever spread
With brightest beauty object ever wore
Of purest flashes of pure white and red
That ever did or could the love allure.
Lord make my love and thee its object meet
And me in folds of such love raptures keep."

Cotton Mather is quoted of the phrase "heavenly ejaculations". Not really scientific, because he also meant "spontaneous prayer", but it did give me a little pause.

It occurred to me that the Ganymede metaphor for souls going up to Christ makes an odd sense in this new light. Also this is a really short version of his stuff, go read the book, there's a lot more where this came from and it looks less sketchy when you don't read it on the internet.

Oh yeah! Katz! His comment is less funny now that I've gone and looked it up. But it does indicate that the above short statements were pretty well accepted historical fact even in the 1980s. His footnote, from page 43 of Gay/Lesbian Almanac: "My reading of the documents, and my stress of the Puritans' negative valuation of erotic lust (as opposed to child production), contradicts the now generally accepted interpretations of Edmund Morgan, William and Mallerville Haller, and other historians responsible for the revisionist line that the Puritans were not as "Puritanical" as the popular stereotype would have it. The stereotype, I think, is closer to reality than the prevailing revisionism."


Wednesday, June 3, 2009

In which our hero returns from the grave

Been in Florida. Sorry.

I have a couple topics for posts lined up. Uno: the Epic (and funny) Historian Infighting between Gary Leupp and Paul Schalow, as documented in Monumenta Nipponica. Dude, you guys are two of the (maybe) four (white) people in this field! I thought you'd be buds or something. Dos: 17thC Puritan homoerotic visions of Your Relationship With Jesus Christ, and the following cries of "Revisionism!", especially coming from Katz where I hadn't expected that much vitriol. That's a fun sentence. When did you last see "Puritan" and "homoerotic" in the same place?